Determining Liability for a Dooring Injury

Bicyclists have a right to share the roadway with vehicles and drivers must take all reasonable measures to avoid causing an accident to a bicyclist. If a driver’s carelessness causes an injury to a bicyclist, they are liable for the victim’s damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering.

There are many ways in which a driver may endanger a bicyclist, including failing to yield the right of way, not leaving enough space while passing a bicycle, or following too closely in traffic situations, but one surprisingly common cause of injuries is known as “dooring” and happens more than you’d think. What is dooring, and who is liable after a dooring accident?

liability for dooring accidents

What Is a Dooring Accident?

Dooring occurs when a driver parks their car on the roadside and then the driver or passenger opens their door to exit the vehicle without first checking for an approaching cyclist. When a motorist opens their door into the path of a cyclist, the bike rider may not have time to evade the door, resulting in a collision that commonly catapults the rider over the car door. 

Few states keep a record of how many bicycle accidents are caused by car doors but a 2011 study in Chicago showed one out of every five bicycle accidents were dooring accidents. There were 344 car-dooring accidents in Chicago alone in 2011, indicating the seriousness of the problem.

Common Injuries in Car-Dooring Accidents

When a cyclist collides with a car door, the result is often serious injury. Between 1996 and 2005, there were seven fatalities in New York City from collisions between bike riders and car doors. Common injuries in dooring accidents include the following:

  • Head injuries/traumatic brain injury
  • Broken bones
  • Back injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Soft tissue injuries (sprains and torn ligaments)
  • Road rash abrasions
  • Bruises and lacerations
  • Spinal cord injuries

Less commonly, car-dooring accidents occur when a bicyclist swerves to avoid colliding with a car door and accidentally swerves into traffic, resulting in a vehicle vs. bicyclist accident. 

Liability for Dooring Accidents

Dooring is illegal in Missouri, where traffic laws indicate that no motorist may open a car door until it is clear and safe for them to open the door and exit. Drivers and passengers have a duty to take reasonable care before opening a door. A reasonable action would be to first check to ensure there are no approaching bicyclists or motorcyclists before opening the door. Failing to take this precaution leaves the motorist liable for any damages suffered by the cyclist in the accident, including medical expenses, income loss, and compensation for pain and suffering. If the cyclist dies from their injury, the motorist is liable for wrongful death damages. a St. Louis bicycle accident lawyer can help victims recover compensation for their accident. 

In some cases, another driver could share liability if they hit a cyclist who was attempting to avoid a car door collision. 

Proving liability for dooring and other traffic accidents requires documenting evidence that meets the elements of liability or showing that the motorist owed a duty of care to others on the road to take reasonable measures to prevent causing injuries, they breached this duty through a negligent action, their breach of duty directly caused injury, and the injury victim suffered damages from the accident. It often takes a skilled personal injury attorney in St. Louis to make a compelling case for compensation in this type of accident since insurance companies commonly dispute, deny, or undervalue this type of claim.